After a season defined by poor starts and spectacular comebacks, the Jazz finally put together a nearly complete game and cooled off the hot New Orleans Hornets 105-87. Deron Williams now leads the all-time matchup with Chris Paul 12-3.
Even though Williams and Paul downplay the matchup every time the topic of the other is discussed, there was no question that the two were going after each other tonight. They’re both great players, and the great ones love to battle with any opponent, but tonight they put on an especially nice show for the fans. The energy in the arena was strong from start to finish, with Jazz fans on their feet for the last two and half minutes of the game.
DWill finished with 26 points and 11 assists, 10 of those assists coming in the first half. Chris Paul had 17 points and 9 assists but told the story of the game in his postgame quote: “It’s always been the New Orleans Hornets versus the Utah Jazz. We have not played a one-on-one game since we’ve been in the league. It was a collective group for them; they executed and we didn’t. It’s simple.”
And indeed it was the Hornets vs the Jazz rather than a simple point guard match up. The second unit for the Jazz turned up the intensity and broke the game open. I never expect the backcourt tandem of Earl Watson and Ronnie Price, much less expected it to be effective. As @jazzhype mentioned during the game, it almost seems like Watson’s veteran leadership helps Price reign in his manic energy and athleticism. Price still plays the role of spark plug, without the costly mistakes that used to offset his contributions.
A lot has been made of the friendship between the Hornets’ Chris Paul and Jarret Jack, but Watson and Price also have a strong mutual respect. Their lockers are next to each other and Price told me earlier in the season that for years he’s looked at Watson of an example of how to have a long career. For his part, Watson spoke after the game about how he considers Price like a younger brother.
Getting back to the starters, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap dominated inside against David West and Emeka Okafor. Jefferson had 23 and 10, Millsap had 17 and 7. I asked Millsap if the other players get a little extra amped when they’re overlooked. “Absolutely.”
One starter who was a conspicuous non-contributor was Andrei Kirilenko. No points, 3 rebounds and single assist in 26 minutes of play? He also had multiple opportunities to score on easy layups that he somehow missed at point-blank range. We can only dream of a day when the Jazz bigs beast around the rim.
The team will take Thanksgiving off before hosting the Lakers at home on Friday. If the Jazz can bring the same energy tomorrow it will be a fantastic night of basketball.
Lakers at Jazz,
Friday, November 26, 2010
7:00 pm MT @ Energy Solutions Arena